The trail end of a storm. False-colored image of anticyclones at the end of a very large storm. Image: NASA Cassini

The trail end of a storm. False-colored image of anticyclones at the end of a very large storm. Image: NASA Cassini

It was a dark and stormy night...

Actually, the most massive storm detected on Saturn lasted from 2009-2011. The Cassini spacecraft took much data and images of the event and monitored its progress through the high atmosphere layers as it swirled and grew around the planet (keep in mind that Saturn is 9.5 times bigger in diameter than Earth). 

There were two surprising findings out of this study!

1- Anticyclones! As stormy as the rest of the planet became, massive (nearly 10,000 km wide) anticyclones, or high-pressurized calming weather, were seen drifting slowly, outlining the major storms.

2- Lightning! Flashing was seen at lower cloud layers which illuminated the upper atmospheric clouds. Flash rates varied from 1-2 per minute, and possibly generated only at Saturn's water layer, very similar to Earth's storm system. Take a listen! NASA Cassini captured radio emissions of lightning from a smaller storm in 2006!

https://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/resources/7364/?category=audio

Studying these storms on Saturn has played a major role in learning about the planet's thermal cooling evolution and atmospheric interactions.

Thank you for reading and come back next week on a segment on what in the world are tholins?!